Continuing in our launch week Q&As for our April releases, we talked to P.D. Cacek! She told us about her new book, Second Lives, her advice for new writers and the art of being edited!
What is the book about?
Besides what might appear to be the obvious overtones—reincarnation and the strength of the human spirit—I feel SECOND LIVES is about hope, hope in our own strengths as humans and in our ability to accept the unimaginable. It is also a story of acceptance and love and how much we’re willing and able to give up so that others might be given a chance.
Do you like the slow start or “hook ‘em fast” opening?
That depends on the plot of the book. If I’m writing about monsters, as I did with the werewolves in CANYONS or the ill-prepared vampire in NIGHT PRAYERS and its sequel NIGHT PLAYERS, then I set the hook quickly so the reader will know exactly what they’re dealing with and what to expect. But for SECOND LIVES it was important that the reader got to know the characters and their lives, so a slower build up was necessary. In this way, I hope, the reader becomes part of the story so that they feel for the characters when their lives are changed forever. I personally like the slow build, but, again, it all depends on the story.
Did you base your characters on anyone you knew?
It’s funny, but generally when I write, I have an image of the main character(s) in my mind...and they’re usually actors or actresses whose work I admire. But that didn’t happen with SECOND LIVES. I had the story and the characters and knew exactly what they looked and sounded like...but they were strangers. I’d never met these people that I could remember, but there they were. Some of the characters, like Crissy and Dr. Ellison, may have characteristics that might be recognizable, but for the most part all the characters are composites.
Which writers have influenced you?
The first, and only because I began reading him when I was still a child, was Ray Bradbury. His style was natural and his stories, even those that took place in the future or on other planets with alien characters, had a strong element of reality to them. He told stories that touched people because they had universal themes. I’ve also learned a great deal about the craft and art of writing from reading the novels of Peter Straub and Thomas Tessier. Like Bradbury, their novels are based in the “every day” where anything, sometimes horrible things, can happen. Whenever a story or novel is giving me a hard time, I start reading one, or all, of these authors. I don’t know if it’s the simple act of removing my forehead from where it’s been banging against the keyboard or their wonderful storytelling, but it has never failed to inspire me...or get me back to writing.
Is there any advice you can give someone starting to write?
First and foremost, don’t listen to anyone who calls what you’re doing a hobby. Also avoid getting into arguments when friends or family remind you of how little money you’ll make as a writer or that you’ll never be another Stephen King, Joe Hill or Dan Brown. If you’re serious about writing, you already know it’s not about the money...although it would be nice if it was. And as far as being another King, Hill or Brown why would you want to? Be you and let your writing show it. Take your work seriously. Look around you, observe the big things and the little things and remember them. Memorize smells and feelings and sounds so that when you write about them others will immediately recognize them. Listen to the way people talk, study the cadence and tone so you can reproduce them in words. Believe in yourself and your work and never lose the capacity to pretend or imagine...and never be afraid to write what needs to be written.
Where did you write?
I wish I could be like a number of my fellow writers who take their laptops with them to coffee shops and bookstores and write, but even though I have scribbled down notes (by hand in an old-fashioned paper notepad) or written the first draft of a novel (also by hand and in a notebook) while sitting in my comfy chair in the living room, my primary workspace is my office where I write on an HP touch-screen (which I only realized was a mistake when I got two long-tailed kittens) tucked into a massive cherry-wood roll top. It is a small space, but comfortably filled with books and painting...and cats. It is my sanctuary.
Did you write in silence, or to any particular music?
I need music when I write and generally will either pick a specific CD from my collection or, more times than not, buy a new one that I feel will make good “background music.” My neighbors probably hate me, but when I’m working on a piece, I play the CD constantly, over and over, until I finish the final draft. I listened to Nocturnes of the Celestial Seas, by Richard Nanes while I wrote SECOND LIVES.
Did you find it hard to write? Or harder to edit your own work?
Writing has generally been easy for me since I usually have the story or novel completely written in my head before I sit down at the keyboard. The first thing I do, after the title, is write down the last paragraph or line...this way I know I’ll have an ending. Editing is another matter. I’m not one of those writers who believes that every word she puts down is golden. I know some of what I write is lead—especially in the first few drafts—but sometimes it’s still hard to hit that delete key. So I have to mentally shift gears from hopeful writer to merciless editor (a fiction) and decide if what is written on the page moves the story along or holds it back. It’s still not a lot of fun, but editing can make or break a book and is one of the most important skills a writer needs to learn.
What was it like to be edited by someone else?
I love it and find it both illuminating and valuable. For the most part, writers live in the self-sustaining vacuum located between our ears. We create worlds and situations and people them with bits and pieces of ourselves and call it good...then hope someone else calls it the same thing. In our eyes, we have created a “good book”, why else would we have the audacity to send it to a publisher? And while it might be good, an editor sees only the manuscript—a work in progress. YOU know what you wanted to say, but it takes an editor to let you know if that message got through. Having another set of eyes look at my work has always given me an insight into my own writing that I never would have been able to see by myself.
What are you writing now?
Besides making notes on ABOMINATION, a much darker novel base in the SECOND LIVES world that deals with one man’s fears and hatred of these “travelling souls,” I’m working on a short novel about a woman photographer and her obsession with a child-sized manikin named SEBASTIAN.
Well, I’m sure that we all can’t wait to read those too! Thank You!
Check out all of the April Release blog posts!
- FLAME TREE PRESS | April Releases | 1 | Ramsey Campbell Q&A
- FLAME TREE PRESS | April Releases | 2 | Jonathan Janz Q&A
- FLAME TREE PRESS | April Releases | 3 | PD Caceck Q&A
- FLAME TREE PRESS | April Releases | 4 | Upcoming Titles